The past years have seen an influx of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) into the Katahdin area, while existing civic and business organizations have witnessed a renewed interest among a certain group of individuals, many of whom are not native to the area. Many of these organizations share officers in common, even while other interested citizens have found themselves effectively shut out.
While this might be a concern, particularly to the person who is on the outside looking in, this is not a cause for public alarm as long as these organizations are purely social in nature.
However, when these organizations assume the task of making or implementing civic policy, we have the right to expect more. In fact, it's reasonable to ask and even to demand of our local governments that they not hand authority over to non-governmental organizations that are not accountable to the electorate.
Otherwise, power is concentrated in the hands of a few select individuals, or stakeholders, as they are called. Some of these individuals are motivated by personal gain.
Controlling the civic organizations is an important step toward implementation of Local Agenda 21, often known as sustainable development or smart growth. We are witness to this taking of control over our civic organizations.
A significant goal to be met is that of manipulating public opinion. This is done, not only by taking over civic and service organizations, churches, and other non-governmental organizations, but by controlling the media.
This they have done, through the Community Press, which seems to many to act as a cheerleader for the visioning process, and by what appeared to be an organized campaign to villify, marginalize, and intimidate any media that proved willing to publish news or opinions that did not follow the predetermined vision.
To this end, we saw Aaron Miller, the editor of the Katahdin Times, publicly berated by a member of the Millinocket town council who also serves as an objective leader of the Katahdin Region Vision project, and is on the board of the Millinocket Area Growth and Investment Council. The fact that this same councilman is also the father of the editor of the competing newspaper merely added a personal touch. When Miller proved not to be as subject to intimidation as they had no doubt hoped, a telephone campaign was mounted against him, which led to his termination as editor of the Katahdin Times. When the editor is not subject to intimidation, turn to the owner.
There should be no surprises there, as Advanced Management Catalyst, Inc.'s partner organization, the Center for Consensual Democracy, claimed as one of it successes, a project that was accomplished in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania.
The editor of the Chestnut Hill Local, a weekly newspaper serving Chestnut Hill, a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, was fired after an organized telephone campaign. The reasons that were given to him were that he concentrated too much on "negative news," which can be loosely interpreted as anything that deviates from the vision.
In Chestnut Hill, as in Millinocket, pattern or bullet voting - the support of a bloc of candidates by small groups operating behind the scenes - insured institutional manipulation and made a joke of any claim of consensual democracy.
In Chestnut Hill, as in Millinocket, a comparatively small and select group of stakeholders took control of any civic organizations, and created countless committees and NGOs, which they also controlled and which gave the illusion of public support for their vision.
And in Chestnut Hill, as we will see in the Katahdin region, only the select group of stakeholders will profit from the implementation of the vision, a profit that will come at the expense of everyone else, including the majority of those good people who currently serve as useful followers.
Who are these people and what do they want?
I can give you the names, or at least some of them, but I cannot read their hearts. I trust that many of you are smart enough to figure out who stands to gain from the implementation of sustainable development in this region.
It's one thing to suggest following the money, but of course that's easier said than done, since they don't let you see the money. Get used to it. They never will.
In a free society, we should be able to rest assured that decisions that have the capacity of affecting the way that we live our lives will be left for us to make, whenever possible, or be in the hands of elected officials, but in the new world of sustainable development, this is not the case.
The consensus process promoted by AMCi in its implementation of Local Agenda 21 is deliberately designed to bypass elected officials, avoid dissent, and implement preconceived and predetermined policies through selected - not elected - committees and NGOs.
The proponents of sustainable development are unwilling to risk head-on debate, as it brings the risk of defeat. The consensus process provides for the occasional expression of dissent, but such dissent is minimized by the selection of individuals known to support the philosophy or who can be converted through the use of incentives and disincentives. Typically, dissenters are marginalized, ridiculed, discredited, and ignored, in that order.
The leaders of the consensus process are paid professionals or government employees who can devote whatever amount of time might be required to implement the process while the dissenters are mostly private citizens who must choose between sacrificing work or home time in order to participate. Sadly, the majority of the people who are ultimately affected know nothing about the process until glowing press reports pronounce what has already happened.
To be sustainable, as it is defined by Agenda 21, individuals and communities must conform to preconceived behavior patterns and predetermined policies set by a handful of individuals who are now selling the failed soviet philosophies of the past, repackaged as sustainable development or smart growth.
The danger in this is that the individual loses the right to impact the society in which he lives. Decisions are made by unelected committees and NGOs which are unaccountable to the voters.
This is already happening in the Katahdin area. Already, we have given MAGIC the authority to speak for the town in matters pertaining to Pine Tree Zones. Already, we have given up the right to fill an open position in our police department without the permission of the Katahdin Vision committee. Already, they are discouraging business opportunities in areas that are not under the control of MAGIC.
This is just a start. You ain't seen nothing yet!
The good news is that it is not too late to take back Millinocket, but only if we are willing to do so, even in the face of ridicule. Remember, and anticipate that they will marginalize, ridicule, discredit, and ignore, in that order.
But we can't ignore them. We must insist that our elected officials do their jobs - and not parcel their responsibilities off to unelected committees, NGOs, and others who are not accountable to the public.
If our elected officials are for some reason unable to fulfill the responsibilities of their office, they have the option of resigning and surrendering their position - not to pass these duties off to a select group of stakeholders, particularly when some of them stand to profit from the decisions that are being made.
Most importantly, we must demand accountability.
Just as a member of the council is expected to abstain from voting on matters pertaining to a business that they have an interest in, so should they abstain from voting on matters concerning organizations on whose boards they serve. If this is not a legal requirement, not doing so certainly creates an appearance of impropriety. They should have the decency to abstain. Lacking such, we should have the courage to ask that they do so.
From the best information available to me, I will list below the individuals who are currently serving on the Millinocket Town Council, on the boards of MAGIC, the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Millinocket Regional Hospital, and as Objective Leaders of the Katahdin Region Vision Project.
Please keep in mind that most of these people are probably serving in these positions admirably and for all of the right reasons. Still, I think it's important to know who is involved in some of these organizations, particularly when questions of conflict of interest or incompatibility of office are presented. Keep in mind also, that some of the major stakeholders may hold power and influence without holding office.
||E Bart Harvey*
||P James Dowe
||Anna Marie Thron
||E Bart Harvey* - local coordinator of TNC
- When I first published this op-ed, I made a reference to the Community Press having been financed by MAGIC. Lisa Pelkey, the publisher, assures me and I accept that this was not true. My reason for believing this is that Bruce McLean, MAGIC's director, has pointed to the Community Press on more than a couple of ocassions as a point of success for MAGIC. I apologize for the error, and it has been corrected.